Water-soluble organic compounds in biomass burning aerosols over Amazonia 2. Apportionment of the chemical composition and importance of the polyacidic fraction

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Abstract

[1] Chemical characterization was performed on carbonaceous aerosols from Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon region as part of the European contribution to the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA-EUSTACH). The sampling period (October 1999) included the peak of the burning season as well as the dry-to-wet season transition. Characterization of the carbonaceous material was performed by using a thermal combustion method. This enabled determination of aerosol total carbon (TC), black carbon (BC), and organic carbon (OC). A significant fraction of the BC material (on average about 50%) seemed to be highly refractory organic material soluble in water. A more detailed analysis of the water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) fraction of the TC was undertaken, involving measurements of WSOC content, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) separation (with UV detection) of the water-soluble components, and characterization of individual components by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The WSOC fraction accounted for 45−75% of the OC. This high WSOC fraction suggests an aerosol derived mainly from smoldering combustion. Using GC/MS, many different compounds, containing hydroxy, carboxylate, and carbonyl groups, were detected. The fraction of the WSOC identified by GC/MS was about 10%. Three classes of compounds were separated by HPLC/UV: neutral compounds (N), monocarboxylic and dicarboxylic acids (MDA), and polycarboxylic acids (PA). The sum of these three groups accounted for about 70% of the WSOC, with MDA and PA being most abundant (about 50%). Good correlations (r2 between 0.84 and 0.99) of BCwater (BC after water extraction) and levoglucosan (both indicators of biomass combustion) with the water-soluble species (i.e., WSOC, N, MDA, and PA), and their increase in concentrations during the burning period provided strong evidence that biomass burning is a major source of the WSOC. Particularly interesting is that PA and therefore, probably, humic-like substances (due to their polyacidic nature) are generated in significant amounts during biomass burning. These substances, due to their water solubility and surface tension-lowering effects, may play an important role in determining the overall cloud condensation nuclei activity of biomass burning aerosols and, consequently, could be important in cloud processes and climate forcing.

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